#REVIEW: GOD OF WAR

God_of_War_2018_capa.pngBefore we get started:  In case you missed my repeated announcements across every form of media I have access to, I’ve started a Patreon.  There’s already a brand new story, WARRIOR JAYASHREE AND THE ROC, up for Patrons at any level.  Join for early access to new work, microfictions, signed & personalized books, and more!  I’ve got three Patrons after the first day– you don’t want them to be the only cool kids, do you?


Also, yes, I’ve been writing a lot of reviews lately.  There are probably two more coming soon, since I haven’t written about DEADPOOL 2 yet and I have my tickets for SOLO already.  Gimme a break; I’ve been encountering a lot of media worth talking about lately.  🙂


I beat God of War last Friday after spending probably 40-50 hours on it.  There’s still some stuff to do, and weirdly I haven’t touched the game since I beat it– probably because the ending was so flawless.  My days off are Thursday and Friday, and since my son is at school and my wife is at work, I spend most of those days by myself.  I do not exaggerate when I say I probably spent 80-90% of those hours over the last several weeks playing this game.  In my defense, I don’t get a lot of time to game when everybody is home, particularly playing something as violent as God of War.

I’d picked it up mostly because I’d gotten bored with Super Mario Odyssey and going back for another hundred hours with Nioh wasn’t quite catching my attention.  I’d never played a previous GoW game, so all the talk about how the series was having a soft reboot and would play completely differently meant it was right up my alley.

And then the game caught me completely by surprise and I ended up loving it mostly for the story.  Don’t get me wrong– the gameplay is great, and killing things with any of Kratos’ available weapons never gets old.  But it’s watching Kratos’ relationship with his son Atreus evolve over the course of the game that elevates it from a quality hack-and-slash to one of the best games, if not the best game (the only real competition, for me, is Nioh) of this generation, and the third for which “buy a PS4 to play this” seems reasonable.  But it’s true: I haven’t had a game’s story hit me as hard as this one did since The Last of Us, and for many of the same reasons.

The plot is pretty simple: at the very beginning of the game, Kratos’ wife, the mother of his only child, has passed away.  Her last wish is for her ashes to be scattered from the highest mountain in the realms.  The whole game is Kratos and Atreus trying to reach that peak.  There are some complications along the way, of course.  But that’s the plot.  Let’s go fulfill Mom’s last wishes.

Kratos is not a good father at the beginning of the story.  He is, at best, a marginal father by the end of it.  But you get the feeling quickly that Mom sent them on this quest as a way to force them together rather than a desire to be scattered off of something really, really tall, and while there are definitely some other moments that show she had other motives in mind– I won’t spoil anything,  you deserve to hit them unaware– the growing relationship between Kratos and Atreus is the heart of the story.  Fathers need to play this game, and fathers of sons in particular need to play it.

On a technical level, the way they’ve integrated Atreus into the story is phenomenal.  Most games with sidekicks have at least a few moments where you’re cursing the sidekick’s existence; they keep getting in your way, they die at ridiculous times, they get caught on some inconsequential piece of geometry and you can’t move on until they fix it.   Atreus has none of that, and ends up being an integral part of your strategy in battle; he’s never in the way and is constantly useful.  The decision to make him impossible to kill isn’t the most immersion-worthy idea ever, but hell if it doesn’t make the game better.

God of War is action-packed, touching, at times hilariously funny, wonderfully acted, and– not for nothing– has one of the greatest endings to any game I’ve ever played.  Actually, this much I’ll spoil: the Big Battle with the Bad Guy is well before the actual ending of the game, where Kratos and Atreus scatter the ashes– and the entire ascent to the summit is played without action, and with another big story revelation, and the credits play silently afterwards as you and Atreus walk back down the mountain.  It’s phenomenal.

Go check it out.

New Jayashree story!

UnknownWarrior Jayashree and the Roc is written and finished.

Oh, you don’t see it on here anywhere?

It’s because it’s the first exclusive post on my new Patreon.

Which…

Holy crap, guys, this is terrifying.  I mean, I was jumpy when I released Benevolence Archives, Vol. 1 out into the wild a few years ago, but somehow the notion that I’ve gotten uppity enough to ask people to send me a little bit of money every month basically just because they like my work is humbling and terrifying and maybe I’m gonna throw up and please just one or two of you buy into this?  Please?

I’ve been going back and forth on this for a while, and I think I’ve come up with a reward structure I like and a use for the page– there are going to be lots of microfiction-type stuff posted there, along with some short stories as I write them, deleted scenes, stuff like that.  I might eventually post what I got written of Sunlight before it fell apart; who knows?

But anyway:  I’m currently supporting about five or six people on Patreon to the tune of $2 or so a month.  I would be humbled and honored if anybody out there feels like I’m worth that much, and if you happen to have some money burning holes in your pocket and want to throw in more, awesome.  And hey– new Jayashree story!  Everybody loves Jayashree, right?

(I love Jayashree.  I might love Jayashree more than Brazel.  Don’t tell him.)

Click here to view my Patreon page.

(Please?)

Quick note

I actually stayed home from work sick today, which is not a thing I’ve done very often during the two years I’ve been at my current job.  Two goddamn years!!

But anyway.  I spent most of the day working on… something.  Two somethings, technically.  Only it’s past 9:00 right now, and that makes now not the greatest of times for a big announcement.

Which is just my way of saying: stay tuned for a big announcement tomorrow.

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#REVIEW: THE POPPY WAR, by R.F. Kuang

The-Poppy-WarI will say this about R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, and that will probably be enough to make it clear how much I enjoyed it without the distraction of the rest of this post: I lost quite a bit of sleep over this book.  I read it in a couple of big gulps over a few days, and both nights I was reading it I was up much later than I wanted to be because I couldn’t put the damn book down.  I was even carrying it around with me in the house and reading the occasional chapter or few pages whenever I had a chance to during the day.  A huge percentage of my book-reading is done in bed nowadays, so if I’m setting aside time I could be spending doing something else during my limited free daylight time it’s a really impressive sign.

Early on while reading it I described it to my wife as “Harry Potter, only in sort-of-China, and the main character is Hermione instead of Harry.”  It does start off very much in that vein, almost a YA-ish format, right down to the character’s Big Bully Enemy being identified right away.  That’s only about the first 20-30% of the book, though, at which point the nation goes to war (the school the main character, Rin, attends is a military academy) and all fucking hell breaks loose.  This book lulls you in, see, and makes you think you’re in a comfortable, recognizable sort of narrative only with some East Asian cultural influences thrown in instead of Hogwarts’ staid Britishness and some occasional swearing, but once it goes off the track it goes off the track hard, and once it starts surprising you it never really stops.

Hermione was super-dedicated to her schooling, right?  Did she take medicine to burn out her own uterus so that she wouldn’t have menstruation distracting her from her studies, thus rendering her permanently infertile?  Hermione ain’t shit, then.  And once their country is invaded, genocide becomes a major theme of the book.  I don’t remember anything about genocide in the Harry Potter books.

I’m going to spare you much of a plot summary, because you deserve to see the twists and turns as the story unfolds, but be warned that R.F. Kuang does not hold back.  Once the war starts there are some scenes in this book that would have made Genghis Khan himself think man, they’re going a bit too far with this.  Oh, and drug abuse.  Lots of drug abuse.

Seriously: this is not a book for the faint-hearted, but if you aren’t too bothered by profanity and hyperviolence and drugs in what, again, starts out feeling like a slightly more grown-up version of a kids’ series, you’re going to love it.  This is definitely the first book of a series, at least a duology– and I can’t wait for the next book in the series.


That said.

(Some spoilers after this part, but I think you want to read it anyway.)

I did the thing I usually do when I really like or really hate a book and went to read a bunch of Goodreads reviews once I was finished with it.  I generally start with the bad ones; they’re more fun.  The Poppy War does not have a lot of bad reviews, but one of the one-star reviews described the book as “super-duper racist,” or something along those lines.  I blinked a couple of times at that, utterly unable to figure out what the person was talking about, and looked around some more.

So here’s the thing: this book is set in a fictional China analogue.  And the event that kicks off the last 2/3 of the book is the mainland country being invaded by the natives of the small, “moon-shaped” island not far off the coast.  In other words– and I needed this pointed out to me; I didn’t pick up on it on my own– Japan.

I do not know a lot about Chinese and Japanese history, but I know that historically Japan has not been nice to China.  And this book’s Federation of Mugen has occupied Nikara (pseudo-China) in the past, and … well, they’re not very nice either.  Now, the interesting thing is that over the course of the book Rin develops some rather major shamanic powers, to the point where by the end of the book she basically calls down the literal wrath of God on an entire island full of these people and razes it to the ground.  Now, it’s an island where the Mugen have been doing experiments on people from her ethnic group, so it’s not as if it’s unjustified, but most of her compatriots react with horror at what she’s done, and it’s set up that Rin is becoming just as bad as the Mugen were by forgetting that they’re people.  There is lots of innocent blood shed here, on both sides, and plenty of it by our protagonist.

I simply don’t know enough about the history here to be able to confidently state whether Mugen is a clear Japan analogue– I mean, there are definitely parallels, but it’s not like Kuang (who was born in Guangzhou in mainland China) dwells on racial differences between the Nikara and the Mugen very much, and this is a book where Rin’s dark skin causes a lot of friction at her exclusive military academy, so it’s not like race is something Kuang ignores.  It may be that my own ignorance is keeping me from seeing how bad this is.  So, while I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of the book, and everything I said before the line is still true, it might be that there are things about it that make it problematic that I haven’t fully explored.  Be aware of that, I guess.  I would be interested to know if someone from Japan was bothered by this; I don’t know enough to say.

STATION IDENTIFICATION: Infinitefreetime.com

I’m Luther Siler.  I’m a writer and an editor.  Welcome to my blog, infinitefreetime.com.

I’ve written several books you might be interested in, ranging from short story collections to near-future science fiction to fantasy space opera to nonfiction, all available as ebooks or in print from Amazon.  Autographed books can be ordered straight from me as well.

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Thanks for reading!

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